Matthew Christen

March is National Women’s Month. Based partially on Women’s History, this came about in 1988. Reaching back to the turn of the century, women suffragettes- Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony attributed the bicycle to be the greatest influence on the emancipation of women.

Amelia Bloomer, the namesake of the 1800’s women’s pants that were often referred to as “Bloomers” made dress reform a major part of her work to move women from dresses and skirts to pants for bicycling.

Annie “Londenderry” Kopchovsky responded to a challenge by two men when they bet that no woman could encircle the globe on a bicycle while earning $5,000 along the way. She neither rode bike, nor was a advocate for women’s rights, yet she tackled this venture on a 42 lb. Columbia bicycle, taking 15 months to complete a round the globe trip starting and finishing in Boston, MA. Thus transformed, she became a spokesperson for both women’s rights and cycling. According to the New York World, she left an immeasurable impact on the attitudes about women.

Kittie Knox, a bi-racial seamstress, cyclist,  and card carrying member of the League of American Wheelmen, caused a real uproar in 1894 after the League declared a color bar. Knox responded by getting on her bike, entering the racially segregated social space, and forcing the issue to be addressed. She broke ground for both blacks and women, challenging perceptions of both blacks and women.

Maria Ward wrote the guide book, “Bicycling for Ladies” in 1896. Ward’s goal in writing the guide was to free women from reliance on men for maintaining their bicycles. The emancipation that she provided broadened the notion of the mechanical abilities of women. certainly someone who had mastered domestic mechanical skills such as sewing, could conquer the bike maintenance world, held distinctly by men at the time. Her opinion is summed up in the statement she made, ” I hold that any woman who is able to use a needle and scissors can use other tools equally well.”

In 1928, five women rode from New York to Washington, D.C. in three days! Marylou Jackson, Velma Jackson, Ethyl Miller, Leolya Nelson, and Constance White completed the 250 mile trek. While it is safe to assume that they had some time in the saddle, were physically in good shape, they confidently made their way. The first day they rode 110 miles to Philadelphia. The second they rode 40 miles to Wilmington< DE. The third day they rode 100 miles to Washington, D.C. How impressive is that!

During the first half of the 20th Century, Katherine Hepburn stood out as a dedicated cyclist. In her youth she rode around town regularly. She rode around the Warner Brothers lot, as well as pretty much everywhere she went. She rode most days after working a rigorous early portion of her day. Hepburn lived to be a healthy 96 yrs old due to her active lifestyle!

Joining the League of American Bicyclists in 1937, Phyllis Harmon as a member of the Evanston Bicycle Toruing Club. She published the league’s bulletin/newsletter. She became the first payed employee of the League in 1972 and the executive director until 1975. She has been indicted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. She is considered to be the Grand Dame of Chicago Cycling.

During World War II, Ellen Fletcher escaped Germany and worked in a factory in London. She biked to her job everyday. Moving on to Palo Alto, CA she became a tireless advocate for bicycle infrastructure improvements. She worked on the first bike lanes leading a fight to establish green lanes to connect schools, parks, and neighborhoods in the city. She pioneered the first bike boulevard in the 1973 as chairperson for the Citizen’s Technical Advisory Committee on bicycling.

Since the late 1990’s, Deb Hubsmith came into the national spotlight as the founder and director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. She stepped into this role after losing her car in a crash. She swore she would never buy another. She went on to build the national partnership, starting in her hometown of Marin, CA.

Many other women have exacted influence on the social and physical fabric of our world. Hoping that with insights into what these women have done for cycling in the U.S., you may be inspired in some way.

Today, approximately 45 million women ride at least one or more times throughout the year, as compared to 59 million men. Twenty-nine million women ride strictly for recreation. About three million ride fro transportation. Fourteen and a half million ride for both recreation and transportation. More women ride that also have children, 32% versus 19% of women without children. Interestingly, fewer women than men have a working bicycle available to them at home. (55% of men versus 47% of women). Boys and girls start out riding equally as often at the age of 10, but by the time they reach 55, the gap really widens, women really falling off where riding is concerned. Overall, though, women ride way more than what might be more commonly perceived as compared with men. People for Bikes, 2015) Women now have taken over as the fastest growing segment of bicycle sales in many markets.




With Spring just around the corner, lots of Americans will be pulling a bicycle out of the garage and climbing on for a ride. Estimates say that 100 million people might do just that, at least once.

 There are five layers to safe cycling:  Handling skills, rules of the road, and lane positioning make up the first three and can curb 90% of all crashes.  The fourth is avoidance skills, and the last is helmet use. Keep this in mind when stirring up a conversation. As the season progresses, many conversations will be had about aspects of cycling that bend people’s interest in riding.  Perhaps we can keep the conversations reasonable, making progress for everyone to get more active!  Since we spend billions and billions on chronic diseases due to sedentary lifestyles, let’s encourage movement!

  1. Bicyclists break more traffic laws than do motorists.  In a 2013 AAA survey, respondents answering the questions: In the past two weeks have you rolled through a stop sign? Two-thirds responded that they had. When asked if they traveled over the speed limit in the past two weeks, again two-thirds said yes. While the sample group was about 1700 people, it certainly is indicative of motor vehicle behaviors. According to Wesley Marshall, a University of Colorado engineering professor who surveyed more than 17,000 cyclists and drivers, drivers copped to breaking the rules at a slightly higher rate than bikers. It’s the rare driver who never speeds, after all. And sometimes, drivers think cyclists are breaking the law when they’re really not — it’s usually legal to take up a whole lane, for example, rather than staying on the right side of the road. (Lane positioning)
  2. More bike riders would curb traffic and pollution.  While it is true that 1 mile by human power saves 1 pound of CO2, our country still only has less than 1% of its population that commutes by bicycle. The country as a whole takes 1.3 trillion trips by car each year. Over 690 billion of those are two miles or less. We COULD make a dent if we really tackled those two mile trips, but we are not. The other problem is that we do not have the infrastructure to have the significant numbers of bike commuters to make a big enough impact. “As city planners have long realized, the only thing powerful enough to lure drivers out of their cars is a combination of robust bike infrastructure and a comprehensive transit system. Just look at the cities where the most people get to work using biking and transit: High shares of one mode tend to correspond with high shares of the other.” The Washington Post
  3. Helmet laws make bicycling safer.  Most European cities don’t require riders to wear helmets. Yet in those cities, there are fewer cyclist deaths and injuries per capita than in the United States. Experts say that’s because of their infrastructure. And studies show that when drivers see cyclists in helmets, they behave more recklessly, driving closer to pedalers and increasing the possibility of accidents.(Washington Post) Helmet use is the fifth level of safety. Another words, when all else fails! We need to encourage more education and training in the first of the three levels of safety.  Besides, demanding helmet use only decreases ridership!
  4. Bicycle riding is only for the well resourced! Well, People for Bikes has some information to dispute this. “… 40 percent of American adults who ride have incomes of less than $20,000.”  The problem lies in the lagging behind of decent infrastructure to help ALL riders out. Quite often the under-resourced tend to be the less vocal or heard group of society. People who make less than $20,000 a year say they’re less satisfied than others with the bike paths, lanes and trails in their neighborhoods.  A family of four, earning at or below the poverty level will spend 40% of their household budget on transportation. That can be offset quite well if the combination of transit and bicycle can be used for transportation instead of driving. This number is quite significant in most cities, as this is a growing segment of our population.


Bicycle theft has grown over the recent years, even with a decline in many other types of theft. (FBI statistics) There are over 1.5 million bicycles stolen each year in the United States. While every town and city varies in its theft density, you can bet you know someone who has had to deal with the loss of a stolen bicycle at some point.

What to do? Practice the 3 R’s!



Take a digital photo of your bicycle. You may want to add some minuscule alterations to the bike that would make it easier to identify. Use a white out pen and mark the height of your seat p[ost just under the seat tube top.  Store this photo in a safe place.  Make sure it is one where you will remember it.


Register your bicycle with your local jurisdiction-police department or two or village. You might also decide to register it on a national registry such as They make it relatively simple. The website can store your photo and bicycle data. The main action to take will be to find the serial number on your bicycle. The majority of serial numbers are located under the bottom bracket where the two pedal cranks meet. Turn your bike upside down and record the number. If there is no serial number near the cranks, you should check other common places including the front headset or rear stays.

Image result for finding your bicycle serial numberBottom line: Record the serial number and identifying characteristics with someone that can help you find your bicycle again!




Report the stolen bicycle right away. Bikes have been recovered as quick as 60 minutes after the theft.  As soon as something happens to your bicycle the digital photo you took photo should go out on social media.  If your opinion might be that the police department might not do anything, or that they won’t recover it so why bother, you are wrong in making this assumption. Police will do whatever they can to recover your bike. IF the bicycle is not reported then they surely can not do anything for you. Other businesses rely on the police department to find out if a bicycle that they are contemplating purchasing might be stolen or not. Pawn shops, used sports equipment stores, and other used bicycle outlets can only rely on police to know if a bicycle might be stolen property. Last, the statistics are necessary to convince community leaders that of the level of theft in the community.


10  Transform early childhood and elementary education in transportation so it includes walking and bicycling as transprotation options.

Rationale: the vast majority of cognitive information starting with pre-school curriculum teaches young people that transportation includes cars, trains, planes, and ships and not human powered means of transportation. Some threads do include historical perspectives on waling, but is mostly seen as the “old or ancient” way, not for modern times.

9   Parking in jurisdictions across the country that are 15,000 or more in population set the parking spot to car ratio at 1to 3 and then move forward to decrease the number of parking spots, and the spot to vehicle ratio to 1 to 4, then 1 to 5.

rationale: Parking remains the number one nemesis to healthy active transportation infrastructure changes in most jurisdictions. When a bike lane, bike boulevard, or other infrastructure is proposed, parking is usually the main cause of the improvements to either falter or be drastically set back.

8  Health insurance “wellness” plans adopt active transportation objectives as an integral part of their menu of options.

rationale: Current health plan wellness programs drastically incentivize events, programs, and leave out effective ways to influence healthy sustainable lifestyle changes.

7   Appropriate, effective bicycle parking supported by business and jurisdictions as a norm rather than afterthought.

rationale: bicycle parking in the vast majority of situations where it even is offered, usually is the cheapest, worst types of parking. Often off and out of the way, in dark spots, less safe, and using racks that cannot appropriately lock bicycles. Bicycles should be able to be locked with two spots of the frame lockable with the bike parking rack.

6   Bicycle training becomes common place for adults as much as youth.

Rationale: In 2015, the NHSA conducted a survey that showed that the sample of adults surveyed had a 93% rate of bicycle injury experience with 97% of the respondents never having had any training. Benefits include more confident riding, less injuries, and greater health returns.

5   Regular education submitted to political and business leaders in understanding the economic benefits of active transportation improvements.

Rationale: Civic and business leaders continue to focus on outrageous expenditures to try and sustain or grow a burgeoning infrastructure for cars only. This myopic view has already taken its toll on budgets, both for individuals and communities. For instance, when  bicycle lane is added in front of retail shops, retails profits increase by atlas 3% and as much as 49%. People on bicycles spend more per month at retail businesses than people driving cars. Mile for mile, bicycle infrastructure is 7 times less costly and provides more jobs than road construction. The time has come for civic and business leaders to be better informed about what true Return on Investments would be had between motorized vehicle  vs active transportation infrastructure means for a community.

4   Bicycle theft is cut by at least 50%.

Rationale: Bicycle theft in many communities has been increasing as a result of drug addition epidemics, among other economic declines in family and individual budgets. As the number of people experiencing poverty conditions, where transportation consumes over 40% of their budget annually, they start to turn to other means to offset their need for income/resources. While 100% decrease in theft is ideal, getting it down by 50% would take a huge bite out of the negative impact it has on people and the community.

3    Youth regularly are engaged in processes of improving active transportation amongst their peers, families and communities.

Rationale: No doubt that youth are our greatest resource. Yet it remains largely untapped as a part of the solution set for getting more people physically active. With 2030 rapidly approaching where over 50% of the US will be obese, attempts to curb this pattern are simply not working very well. Youth need to be engaged to not only work with their peers to change the culture of transportation and physical activity, but to be valued in their communities as a source of energy for change. This helps to insure that long term, sustainable healthy habits begin to emerge. Research shows that youth that remain inactive physically and are themselves overweight or obese will by and large be that way when they grow into adulthood.

2     Vulnerable User laws would be passed at both state and federal levels with stiff fines and required training courses mandatory for offenders.

Vulnerable users of our transprotation routes can be killed by motor vehicle drivers with little recourse due to the requirement to prove criminal intent or negligence on the part of law enforcement. Basically their hands are tied without laws that have more bite. Proving intent or negligence is really difficult. Vulnerable users include farm vehicle operators, pedestrians, Amish horse and buggy riders, as well as bicyclists. All users should be safe in using transprotation routes, not just motor vehicle drivers.

1  Bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure and education given defined, permanent funding as a part of legislated budget items.

With no real binding, regular budget for active transportation improvements and projects continue to be overlooked, cut, and not seen as valuable to the economy, health, and vitality of any community. With the frontal attack by current republican leaders to gut all active transportation funding in order to fund costly motorized vehicle projects that have scaled way beyond American  jurisdictions ability to afford maintaining these transportation systems, active transportation struggles greatly for any support.

The Northern climates dictate more of a schedule of down time for our bicycles. Many of the tips for putting your bike up for an extended period of time still fit. Bicycles resting requires some other logic to help keep it ready for the next ride as well as preserving it for the long haul. Preparing the bicycle in order to avoid deterioration is the goal. Where you store the bicycle makes a difference. Avoid keeping it out doors, even covered if at all possible. While you may not want to rent space, search out indoor options in your local- a friend’s garage, smaller “pay-by-the-item” places do exist in some larger cities.

First, store your bicycle with fully inflated tires. While this may not be as important if you hang your bicycle, it keeps the shape of the tire and tube. This is most critical if you park the bicycle on the floor.  The air pressure will keep the weight of the bicycle off of the rubber-tires and tubes, and avoid extra cracking or other break down of the rubber in one spot.

Clean it up! Clean your bicycle. Many tools exist to help with this job. I recommend stopping by your local bike shop and picking up some brush, chain cleaner, and related cleaning items. Clean the chain with a brush and/or chain cleaning tool such as the Park Tool-cg-2.2. Pedro’s makes one called the Chain Pig II, which is similar but does not have the handle on the CG-2.2. You can also use  a GRUNGE Brush made by Finish Line. Essentially, anything you do to get rid of the dust, dirt, and debris from your drive train makes a difference. Even though you may not be riding, minerals found in dirt and debris still interact with the metals.

Cleaning the frame helps to give you pause to check it over for any other wear and tear, such as rust spots, cracks, or other parts starting to fail in some fashion. Cleaners such as Windex, Simple Green, and Pledge are adequate for the task. Whatever you use, avoid any pressurized water. Water itself should never be left on the bike. Dry your bicycle off after any kind of water experiences. I like to use an air wand connected to my small air compressor to dry off water spots. The only warning about Pledge is to avoid using it on rims where the brakes rub. Pledge is useful as it has a small amount of silicone in it to help act as a type of light wax to retard water and dirt from sticking to the parts of the bicycle.

The next part might be necessary to take to your local bike shop/wrench. Lubing the cables, both brake and shifting cables.  This helps to avoid corrosion, rusting, or poor performance. You may have stainless steel cables, which eliminates some rusting, but not other issues that can decrease the performance of the cables.

Wipe down the saddle, handlebars, grips, tape, and tires. Tires experience dry rot over time and dirt and other chemicals or debris on the rubber does not help. There are some tire brushes available just for the job. White lightning makes one that is adjustable. Spray on some Simple Green and brush off the dirt and rinse with a water bottle or very low pressure water source. ( Pressurized water can find its way into bearings which is bad news for performance and durability). Of course Pedro’s has their own Pro Brush kit. Park Tools has theirs.  Oumers makes a 6 piece set that has a handy tire brush to it. While cleaning the saddle, handlebars, etc. makes the bike shine a bit more, there is nothing scientific about its cleaning, except to keep stuff from wearing on it unnecessarily.

Inspect your tires after cleaning them. Check for cracking. The cracking can lead to flats and poor performance. Doing it now can also give you time to figure out what tires you might want to replace the current set with so they are ready for the next ride.

Now is also a good time to have your local bike shop check your chain for wear and tear. They have tools that will show if the pins and other parts show wear. Often people will call this chain stretch, but the chain does not really stretch. The pins get sloppy along with the other dozen parts of the chain link. This will give you a heads up if you need it replaced or if the rear freewheel or cassette needs attention.

Last, check out your brakes. First, do they work. Second, do they have enough pad (if they are rim brakes this is easy to tell). If you have disc brakes you may need to ask for help, as the rotor might also need truing. The pads should have at least an 1/8″ clearance with the grooves. They also might need to be adjusted to keep them in good stopping order.

Now might be the best time to get your bicycle into the local bike shop as it is typically slow and you won’t have wait time. Chances are better that your bike will get a little more attention also.

Last, store your bicycle hung by its frame. Many folks hang bikes from the wheels using hooks. While this is better than on the floor, ideally, the frame is supporting the bike in at least two spots. so, hang by the frame, hang by two wheels, hang by one wheel, or have it on the ground is the order of recommendations.

Whether it is for the winter, snow and ice season or just a prolonged hiatus, put your bicycle up clean and tuned.